“Report at the earliest possible convenience,” says the Embassy website. I should have taken that word, ‘convenience’ a little more seriously. One week and four days after the most gruesome (and rewarding) experience of my life, I’m going to report the birth of my American son, Oliver Sol, to the United States Embassy in Guatemala City. I do so at great pain, battling my traumatized vagina’s worst enemy, the pothole, for over two hours.
Pothole? No, this is an understatement. These aren’t potholes, these are a geological phenomenon. They are craters. They are canyons. And Guatemalans, badasses that they are, just drive right over them. I find that lying down on my side doesn’t work but standing on my head does.
Window 3, US Embassy: “Ma’am, you need the father’s information on this application. Where is the father?”
I take a slow, weary look behind me to see the whole waiting room staring at me.
“I don’t know what to tell you. It was my college graduation party. The last thing I remember was dancing on the bar with two fat blond girls from Texas. Neither of them looks like my little boy…”
If they want me to scream the dirty details of my life through a 3 inch piece of glass in front of an entire waiting room full of people that have nothing to do but eavesdrop, that’s fine. Truth is, I do know who the father is. I’d just rather not say. He’s a professional golfer, a gambler and a fine whiskey drinker. The whiskey being the only thing we had in common. After nine months of explaining this and countless other more interesting (but less true versions), I’m over it. I have found that if I want the conversation to end quickly, the mention of the fat blondes does the trick. The attendant’s eyes dropped quickly, she was more embarrassed than I was when I told my mother. Ha!
The woman behind the counter explains that without a father present she cannot take this conversation any further. I will have to reschedule an official appointment. Which means that I’ll have to relive this nightmare some other day.
“The next availability is the 10th of next month.”
My son starts crying on my behalf.
I have two milk-soaked breasts getting bigger with every wail from Oliver and they are asking me for more proof that this is my son? There’s something about windows that turn normal people into complete assholes. Specifically, power-mongering assholes, because Oliver and I so desperately need our passports and they hold all the cards. We need our passports like the crack-head who needs his stinking $20 but the bank is closed, so he walks to the drive through window and the bitch won’t give him his cash because he doesn’t have a car. We need our passports like the sad and lonely man who works at the insurance company needs his 20 piece chicken McNuggets but is 5 goddamned cents short on the bill when he goes to pay at Window Number 2. You have a need. They have the power AND the security to deny you. The equation equals assholery.
I shrink back, admitting defeat to the window-devil and get set to sate little Oliver.
Shit! I only know how to breast-feed lying down…
I retire to the women’s room and lay down on the disgusting, but refreshingly cool, tiled floor, making a bed out of several layers of toilet paper for my tiny little unvaccinated bundle of joy, tears and poop. In my head, I quickly run through my explanation in Spanish should anyone interrupt my awkward moment.
“I am in the bed since this baby being born in the week before and I no know how to breast-feed while I sit… or on feet and during walking, like you all can do. That is very good… and for that is why I on floor now. For to breast-feed.”
Oliver is done eating but my breasts aren’t done leaking. So I fill my shirt with all the extra clothing I brought for the trip, leave the embassy with my head high and my cute little tank top with the removable top part convenient for new moms shoved full of scarves, socks, and half a (clean) diaper covering each breast. As I walk down the street in this condition, I still get hit on. Major shortage of calcium in these parts, I guess.
Back to the shuttle van, aka torture mobile. We begin our drive home, without the baby’s passport or my Report of American Birth Abroad, our only two reasons for this horrendous trip to the city. I forget all the things I had wanted to pick up in the city that aren’t available in the village and resume my headstand position in the backseat. Oliver is sleeping. I stare at him and realize that even upside down he is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And I’ve never liked babies or children. “A contributing factor to the drain of natural resources on our Earth,” I’ve been known to say matter-of-factly.
I eat my words as I change his diaper.
As for child birthing and rearing, I understand women must suffer for making man eat the apple and all… but we get to experience a kind of love, energy and adoration for life that no man will ever experience. Okay, maybe by the time Oliver is my age, they will. Did you guys read about that post-op transsexual dude who kept her ovaries and is now a preggers daddy? Wild! But for now, I feel special. I will happily suffer through anything to see this undamaged little angel smile. Even if it’s just gas.
I’m pleased to hear the driver has a major case of food poisoning and needs to drive very slowly over bumps to avoid barfing on the steering wheel. I move a little closer to give him my sympathies. And then proceed to tell him of my ten vaginal stitches and urinary tract infection and the bag of milk-rocks I used to call my breasts. And how two doctors had to put all their weight on my stomach to help my son be born, it being quite possible that I have no organs in my stomach anymore. That might be what is hanging outside of me, making my hoo-ha look like a baboon’s ass. But again, my sympathies with regards to your diarrhea, Mr. Driver Man.
We reach the village of San Pedro la Laguna, where I call home. We pass my small school garden project, my favorite cantina and the ancient Tzutujil men that frequent it, finally arriving at my beautiful but simple home and we are greeted by a group of multilingual friends waiting for multilingual answers of the day’s disaster. It occurs to me that this is the universe helping me along. I don’t really want my son to be an American. I don’t really want him to know what PVC is, or be comfortable on a riding lawn mower or have a girlfriend who gets manicures regularly. I know these things aren’t specific to the USA but I’ve encountered them a lot more often in the States than in Atitlán.
The universe continues to scream its thoughts on the matter into my ears when I take my next two trips to the Embassy in the following weeks. I decided to take the chicken bus for shits and giggles; at least it gets there faster. I prefer the sound of the indigenous languages over Dutch or Hebrew or Californian valley-girl English, which has been my experience in the shuttles. I realize the only thing those giant mirrors above the driver’s head are used for is to watch gringos fall all over themselves while they try to find a seat. God bless them for having fun in life.
The same bitch is running the show behind Window 3 when I arrive. She and her associate she-devil don’t make a single move to address me. They just sit and smirk. They didn’t even pretend to look busy, maybe because I was the only person in the waiting room. Eventually, the younger, prettier one comes over and I count my blessings because the older one is obviously pissed to be the older, uglier one. She chides me for not waiting until my appointment date and then tells me that my US birth certificate, US social security card, US driver’s license and US passport are not sufficient evidence that I have lived in the US for over a year. Strangely, I am not surprised to hear the Embassy’s stance that it is, in fact, quite possible that I flew into the United States to get these documents, but never once actually spent one full year there, which is a requirement to get Oliver’s American citizenship. I’m blond, I have a terrible American accent and I’m carrying a backpack… where does she think I’ve been spending my time when not using the US for its driver’s license vending facilities and wonderful waiting lines? Does she think I bolted as soon as the doctor wrote out my birth certificate? The mental images and ridiculousness of what she’s saying cause me to laugh in her face. Not the way to go. I leave the Embassy, dejected and rejected once again.
The next week, I bring everything one could possess to prove themselves and their offspring, including the high-definition photo my sister took of Oliver exiting the womb and asked the older, uglier one if she’d like to see more – I’d brought a whole album! I think that’s what did the trick.
Little Oliver Sol’s US passport was approved less than 20 minutes later. Suddenly all the nervous fretting and terrible frustration of the past several weeks was gone. Rather more tragically, what appeared in that place was sadness and fear at the thought of our impending trip and life back in the good-ole U.S.A. But, for better or worse, little Ollie, now you are part of the people.
Emily Zielke is a freelance writer and new mommy. She is currently homeless in Normal, Illinois with her beautiful baby, Oliver Sol. We love her and wish them both well.
3 thoughts on “An American Birth Abroad”
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